Halloween season is here! Although there are many things to enjoy about the holiday (dressing up in silly costumes, eating tons of candy, the return of the NBA, etc.),a favorite part of Halloween is the tradition of reading scary stories. You can be scared witless by a story at any time of the year, but around this time feels just right to curl up with a scary book as the leaves are beginning to turn.
Horror fiction has a long, rich history. Many modern horror novels and films are influenced by the classic horror stories of yesteryear. The following reader’s advisory are horror stories and novels whose frights have withstood the test of time.
The Raven: Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Arguably the father of the horror short story, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most notable writers in the horror/suspense genre. Poe is perhaps best known for his poem, “The Raven,” but his short stories are where the true scares can be found. This collection includes the titular poem, as well as nail-biters like “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Recommended if you like Gothic literature, detective stories, and mystery.
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
This 1895 collection of weird, supernatural short stories has experienced something of a renaissance this year. The cause behind this spike in interest is the HBO series “True Detective”, which heavily referenced Chambers’ work in its suspenseful first season (ex: The Yellow King, Carcosa, etc.). American horror master H.P. Lovecraft was also heavily influenced by this collection. Recommended if you like supernatural stories and/or if you’re a “True Detective” fan waiting for Season 2.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Published in 1898, this novella is a literary tale of psychology and the supernatural. Given its short length, this is a good choice if you’re looking for an evening of mystery. Like many of the best horror stories, this novella is still inspiring a debate over whether the ghosts in the tale are real or merely imagined. Recommended if you like psychological literature, ghost stories, and New Criticism.
Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft
Despite not being widely recognized during his lifetime, H.P. Lovecraft is now one of the most celebrated authors of Horror and Weird Fiction. Although not all of his work falls into the horror genre, Lovecraft’s short stories and novellas have plenty of terrifying and eerie moments. This collection contains all of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories, including his most famous story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” as well as his legendary novella, “At the Mountains of Madness.” Recommended if you like terrifying creatures, complex mythologies, and artist H.R. Giger’s work on the Alien films.
One of Stephen King’s best works, The Shining is a quintessential haunted house (or hotel) story. Although Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation is excellent and quite scary at times, the book is way more terrifying. Set at a luxurious mountain hotel in Colorado, The Shining explores what happens when the Overlook Hotel closes for the winter and aspiring novelist Jack Torrance and his family stay on as caretakers. Recommended if you like supernatural terror, haunted houses, and being scared of bathtubs.
These five works merely scratch the surface of the scares that horror literature has to offer. What are your favorite scary stories or films? Tell us in the comments below. Happy haunting!